Prison Gate to Plate

Rimutaka-3If you were given the opportunity to eat a meal prepared by inmates in a prison,would you do it?

We did, and it was fantastic.

“Members of the community are invited to enjoy a meal prepared and served by prisoners who have been under the tutelage of the award-winning chef [Martin Bosley] since November. This is your chance to see and participate in the rehabilitation of offenders by their instructors whilst learning more about the reality of life behind prison gates.”

As part of the Wellington on a Plate food festival – and wider rehabilitation activities at Rimutaka Prison6 inmates, with the help of a local celebrity chef, put on two really entertaining nights at the prison.

Both sold out in a matter of minutes, apparently surprising almost everyone involved.  But not the ticket-buyers; it was hands down the most interesting event on the (tasty, tasty) list!

I’d never been in a prison until last night (one of the benefits of being a goody-good).   Before we got there, I had mental images of sitting in a cold mess hall, eating food clearly made in bulk by amateur cooks.  It wasn’t like that at all.

After leaving everything but our tickets and our IDs in the car (so no photos, team!), and getting an initial security briefing, we were shepherded through the security checkpoint and into the visitor centre.  We all mingled in there, checking out various displays and filling up on the canapés

… cedar planked ora king salmon with chive butter emulsion…
… savoury tuile with a sundried tomato pesto…
… fancy-pants spicy falafel and aioli…
… more salmon…

So tasty.  So good.  So full before dinner.
So worth it.

The canapés alone made the drive out to the prison worthwhile (in my book anyway).

To make it even better – there were trainee drug-dogs (so cute!) and a drug-dog demonstration (so clever!).  Did you know they can train dogs to sniff out cellphones, too?  Try teaching that to your cat.

For dinner, we walked over to the training college restaurant (“Doing Thyme“) and proceed to eat more.

Savannah grass-fed beef fillet, mustard, duck liver parfait, blackcurrants, salt-roasted potato, spiced heritage carrots, watercress and oxtail sauce…


Whittaker’s dark chocolate terrine, milk chocolate mousse, with a little popcorn for crunch…


The whole night was really interesting, and the food was really good.  We were served both staff and inmates, and were given a small insight into the things being done to help these guys back on track.

If you ever get the opportunity to attend something like this, I highly recommend it.  Yes, you’re getting well-fed and it’s a story to tell others the next day.  But you’re helping these guys who have honed all that energy into two special nights for the public.   Constructive use of their energy.

They’ve built on skills they didn’t know they had.  Confidence is boosted, and as a result of the hard work, they have options that weren’t previously available.

It’s a pretty sweet deal all-round.

6 thoughts on “Prison Gate to Plate

  1. Maybe this should be tried at other prisons and with other chefs too. I’m not quite sure what opportunities this will provide inmates on their release but I’m sure it was a positive experience for both inmates and community.

    • A lot of its a confidence thing. And having a positive example to use when trying to get a job once out.

      I agree, it’d be good to see this tried elsewhere, too.

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